30 October 2011

Double, double toil and trouble, Chocolate Chip Cookies this way come!

Every time I'm ill, I get cravings like a pregnant woman. Friday night, it was herring in dill remoulade, today it's chocolate chip cookies.
After hours of searching, I finally found the perfect recipe on A Full Measure of Happiness. Lauren calls them "Double Trouble Chocolate Chip Cookies" which immediately reminded me of Macbeth and, first and foremost, of the fabulous "Double Trouble" song in the film version of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (the song was in fact inspired by the witches' scene from Macbeth). The last time I listened to it, it got stuck in my ear for several weeks. Am expecting a similar effect this time (not that this is a bad thing, it's an awesome song, after all. And it goes really well with the upcoming Halloween).

I know that bustling around in the kitchen making chocolate cookies is not exactly the best thing to do when you're ill. But those cookies are done in a flash, and I was back in bed within 45 minutes, eating cookies, drinking milk and actually being ... ... cheery! That's got to be a good thing.

No, they are not healthy and I don't even want to know the calorie amount. But: They're chocolatey (white AND bittersweet chocolate chips) and walnutty and fudgy, and they make you really happy. Even when you're lying in bed with a fever.

 Yes, that bowl next to the cookies is a huge cup of milk. Yum!


Aaaah, delicious beyond imagining..!

They were gone pretty quickly.

Double Trouble Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes for around 25 cookies

115 g/1 stick butter
170 g/0.75 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
40 g/0.3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 large or 2 small eggs
125 g/1 cup flour
0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
180 g/1 cup chocolate chips (I used a mixture of bitter and white chocolate)
120 g/1 cup walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180° C/350° F and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Mix the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, cocoa powder, and eggs together until combined. Then add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, chocolate chips, and nuts.

Put tablespoon-sized dollops of the dough on the baking tray and smoothe them down. Be careful to leave enough space in between, the cookies will expand quite a bit.

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes. They will still be a bit gooey. Leave them in the oven for another 5 minutes if you like them crispy.

Let them cool for 15 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.

Eat with a large cup of milk.

And now all together:

Double, double, toil and trouble.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Double, double, toil and trouble.
Something wicked this way comes!

Eye of newt and toe of frog,
wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
lizard's leg and owlet's wing.

Double, double, toil and trouble.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Double, double, toil and trouble.
Something wicked this way comes!

In the cauldron boil and bake,
fillet of a fenny snake,
scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
witches mummy, maw and gulf.

Double, double, toil and trouble.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Double, double, toil and trouble.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Double, double, toil and trouble.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Something wicked this way comes! 

Apple and Camembert tart or "Pass the butter, please!"

I know, the combination sounds quite weird but this is an a-ma-zing dish. Really. Very. Incredibly. Good. 

When I stumbled across it on Tastespotting, it was a Brie and Pear tart. My mum went into fits of laughter when I told her the story of me making this recipe (hello, mummy!) as I started with "I found this brilliant recipe for a Pear and Brie tart!" and then started listing all the things I changed about it which was basically everything (I kept the sugar, the oven temperature and the baking time, though): I couldn't find any organic brie so I bought camembert (experts, please don't hit me, but is there any difference between brie and camembert besides the region of origin and the size? They're both the same to me...), I didn't have any pears left so I substituted apples (holstein cox, to be precise. I didn't know that variety before but now that I know them, I've decided that they are the best apples in the entire universe. They taste like sherbet. Fabulous.) and I was too lazy and too stingy to buy pear schnapps so I ended up using cherry brandy (there was some left over from the gingerbread project a few weeks ago). And I didn't really like the sweet almond pie crust, so I made a different, more neutral one.

Sorry for the picture. There's no natural light in our kitchen, so almost all the pictures I take in there turn out absolutely awful. (And the tart just smelt so good, I didn't have the patience to bustle around for minutes, trying to get a remotely good shot.)

The whole thing tastes very french. The apples, the camembert, the crust. Oh my, the crust! It's very buttery, but in the best of ways. Come to think of it: Is there even a bad way of being buttery? Or to put it this way: "Is there anything better than butter? Think it over. Every time you taste something that's delicious beyond imagining, and you say, What is in this?, the answer is always going to be butter. The day there's a meteorite heading toward the earth and we have 30 days to live, I am going to spend it eating butter. Here's my final word on the subject: You can never have too much butter." Absolutely never. I have to agree with Julie Powell here. (The quote's from the Julie & Julia film. You don't know it? Go watch it! Chop chop!)

Where was I? Oh yes, butter! And where do we find the most buttery, tasty, delicious, wonderful dishes? In France, of course. Buttery pastry always tastes like France. Always. I'm not a francophile. I would like to be but I'm not. I love the music, the food (the menus, the pastry!), the wine, and the landscapes and towns, but I don't get along with the people. Shame. Well, at least I can have the music, the wine and the food without going to France. I'm babbling, sorry. Back to the tart.

It looks amazing, it smells amazing, it tastes amazing. The only thing I couldn't decide on is what kind of dish this tart actually is, or rather when to eat it. Is it something you can have for supper? Is it a pudding? Or a kind of cake you can have for tea? If you ask me, it's neither. But it is absolutely delicious, so just make it and eat a slice (or two or three, if you're a glutton like me) whenever the whim takes you.

Apple and Camembert tart
(inspired by A spicy perspective, recipe for crust adapted from Simply recipes)
Makes for 1 tart

For the crust: 
150 g/1.25 cups all-purpose flour
115 g/0.5 cup unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1 cm/1/2 inch cubes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 to 4 Tbsp ice water

For the filling:
200 g camembert
3-4 apples
50 g/0.25 cup sugar
1.5 Tbsp calvados (is certainly better than my cherry brandy)

Preheat the oven to 200 °C/400° F.

Combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter and mix until you've got a crumbly substance resembling oatmeal. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, checking after each addition if the dough holds together. If it doesn't, add a little more water. Put in the fridge for at least an hour (recipe says. I didn't do it).

Grease a tart form. Now you have two options: You can roll out the dough into a disk and then line the tart form with it, or you can just put the lump of dough in the form and press and squish and push it around until the form is lined. I always go for the latter option because it's less work and I'm lazy.

Put it in the oven to prebake the crust.

In the meantime, core the apples and cut them and the camembert into very, very thin slices.

In a small bowl, combine the calvados and the sugar.

Remove the tart form from the oven. Cover the bottom of the tart with camembert (it doesn't matter if it starts to melt). Cover the camembert with a layer of overlapping apple slices, then spread the calvados sugar mixture on top and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 30-40 minutes (the cheese should bubble up and the crust should be a brownish gold), then let it cool for 10 or so minutes. 

Eat with a cup of strong black coffee or a glass of wine while listening to George Brassens.

I have no idea how long it keeps since I ate it within two days (almost on my own).

29 October 2011

Pasta with squash, pear and pomegranate

Actually, I was supposed to spend this weekend in Norway's beautiful capital to visit my friend who has been living there for more than a year. My week was very busy and stressful, nevertheless I was very much looking forward to this trip. Fate, however, had other plans and so I'm currently tucked in my bed with a fever and aching limbs. Fuck. (Sorry.)
There are only a few reasons which make me see this development in a slightly positive light: I finally have a good excuse to spend several days in a row in bed. I have time to watch my favourite films and tv programmes, and to read. And I have time to post some delicious recipes I made over the past week.
Apart from that I'm still a bit grumpy and would much rather be in Oslo than here. Tough luck.

Pasta with squash, pear and pomegranate
Serves 1

As much pasta as you want (wholewheat for me, please)
250 g/0.5 cup pumpkin puree (alternatively raw butternut or onion squash)
Half a red onion
Half a firm pear
Half a pomegranate
About 100 ml/0.5 cups water (or cream or white wine)
0.5 tsp cinnamon
1 generous pinch of cardamon
Some olive oil

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box.

Dice the pear and the onion. If you don't use pumpkin puree, grate the squash.

Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan and sweat the onions until translucent. Add the pear and the squash (if you use grated squash and not the puree). Season with salt and pepper, and fry for another few minutes.

Add the pumpkin puree (if you didn't choose the grated squash) and the water, and stir. If you feel fancy-schmancy and decadent, you can substitute white wine or cream (or a mixture of both) for the water. I was ill when I made this and felt like neither.

Season with cinnamon and cardamon, and cook for about 5 minutes. Scoop out the pomegranate's pulp and add it to the sauce. Stir a few times, then add to the pasta and combine.

Pour the pasta and sauce into a bowl and eat it on your bed, watching Black Books.

25 October 2011

Soda bread

I know lots of people who love to cook, bake cakes, cupcakes, biscuits, cookies. Only very few bake their own bread, though. Baking bread still seems to have the aura of something complicated, mysterious, I've never really understood why. It's not hard (well, it's a bit hard when you use sourdough, but that's not really the object here), it's not dangerous, it's not expensive. Still people always think that baking your own bread is a huge deal.
This post is here to convince you of the opposite.

The bread I'd like to introduce you to is certainly the most simple bread ever to have walked (or rather have been eaten on) this earth. Soda bread. It only requires four ingredients that are assembled in absolutely no time, and 40 minutes later you can pull the most perfect soft, crispy-crusted, heavenly smelling loaf out of the oven. Who said anything about complicated?

There are countless recipes for Soda bread on the web and they all vary slightly (though they're all equally simple). I stuck with Sophie's recipe and was very, very happy with it, but feel free to try another one and tell me about the result.

Soda bread
(Recipe by Sophie Dahl (2011): From Season to Season - A Year in Recipes. - London: HarperCollins.)
Makes for 1 loaf

400 g/3 cups flour (you can use buckwheat, wholewheat, rye, spelt, it all works. I normally use half wheat and half spelt)
350 ml/1.3 cups buttermilk
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 200° C/390° F
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Create a small well in the middle, pour in the buttermilk and mix. Don't meddle around with the dough for too long, stop when everything is only just combined.

Dust the dough with flour and form into a ball, then place on a baking tray and cut a deep cross across the top.

Bake for 40 minutes. The bread should make a hollow sound when tapped on the base.

Cut off several slices immediately, spread clotted cream and jam on top and eat.

Store in a paper bag (don't use an airtight container/plastic bag as it would make the bread develop a very strong pretzel-y smell). Consume within a week.

23 October 2011

Pumpkin/Squash gnocchi in a lemon sage butter sauce

Every autumn, I'm so afraid for pumpkin season to end before I've tried out all the pumpkin recipes I wanted to. And every autumn, exactly that happens. This was a great deal easier when I was a teenager and the only pumpkin recipe I was acquainted with was pumpkin soup. I was never and will propably never be a big fan of pumpkin soup. It's O.K., but nothing more. But ever since I found out about pumpkin pies, pop tarts, gnocchi, risotto, waffles, pancakes, syrup etc, pumpkin season always seems to go by in a flash. Well, not this year. I promised myself that this year would be different. So, when I went to the supermarket last monday to do my weekly grocery shopping and they had a special offer on onion squash, I bought... ...two! Despite my still having half a pumpkin in the fridge.
Let the pumpkin series continue. There's still a lot more on the menu.


I discovered this recipe about one year ago on Homemade deliciousness, one of my favourite food blogs, and have already made it countless times since then. It seems to virtually scream of effort but it's actually pretty easy. Of course, it's even easier and also a lot quicker if you can get your hands on tinned pumpkin puree. For those who can't: You can also prepare some pumpkin puree in advance, that way you won't have to make everything in one go. Just peel the pumpkin or squash (not necessary if you have one with an edible skin, e.g. onion squash or butternut), deseed and slice it. Put the slices onto a baking tray and bake for around 25 minutes at 200° C/390° F. Transfer the slices to a bowl and puree with a handheld blender. Store the puree in an airtight container. It will keep in the fridge for about 5 days. 

Pumpkin gnocchi in a lemon sage butter sauce
(Recipe adapted from Homemade deliciousness)

Serves 2 (or 1 for two suppers)

300 g/1.25 cups pumpkin puree (use tinned or make it yourself: see above for instructions)
150 g/1.25 cups flour
1-2 Tbsp polenta
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

A handful of fresh sage leaves (dried will do as well)
50-70 g/0.25-0.3 cups butter
Juice from half a lemon
As much parmesan as your heart desires

Mix together the pumpkin puree and the polenta, salt and nutmeg. Add the flour. The dough should only be slightly sticky (you may need to add more flour). Cut the dough into two equally large halves.

On a floured surface, form each half into a roll (about 2.5 cm/1 inch in diameter) and press it down a little. Then cut it into smallish pieces (2.5 cm/1 inch long).

Fill a large pot with water and bring to the boil. Put in the gnocchi and cook them for around 5 minutes or until they all swim on the surface.

In the meantime, chop the sage. When the gnocchi are done, strain them and put them aside. Heat the butter in a small frying pan. When it has melted, add the sage and the lemon juice. After a minute or so, add the gnocchi and fry for another 3 minutes, stirring all the time.

Serve with the parmesan on top.

21 October 2011

One more slice - oh yes, please!

A friend of mine recently returned from a long vacation in Stockholm and brought me back this fabulous cookbook by Leila Lindholm.

Leila Lindholm is something like the Swedish female Jamie Oliver and has the most marvellous recipes. Just to think of chocolate cheesecake, peach and mascarpone pizza or sweet potato pie. 
This book is all about pizzas (savoury and sweet), waffles, pancakes, cheesecakes, pies, bread and pasta. Basically everything that you can cut in slices.
I'm particularily fascinated with a bread recipe for a most girlishly pink beetroot bread. I hate pink with a passion but the idea of a pink bread is so wonderfully absurd that I think I might really need to make one...


Monday was an absolutely awful day for me. I won't go into the details, let me just say that I got into a row with my ex-flatmate, felt depressed anyway, had trouble with our electricity provider and my ex-landlord, and the cold that had already announced itself last Wednesday finally kicked in (yay! (not).  I've almost got over it by now). In short: I felt like the whole world had turned on me. 
On days like that, for me, there are only two things to do: (1) Make yourself a nice cup of hot chocolate, snuggle up in a blanket, turn up the heat, and watch a movie, (2) get in the kitchen and bake something. Anything. Preferably biscuits or something like that. 
I went for option 2 (when you have a cold, milk and chocolate aren't that good, anyway) and decided to make flapjacks. Not American flapjacks which, as you might know, are some sort of pancakes, but British flapjacks, in other regions of the world mundanely known as muesli bars.


 The basic recipe is, of course, by Sophie, but I made quite a few modifications. You can really get creative with flapjacks. As long as you get the ratio honey/syrup to butter, and honey/syrup/butter to dry ingredients right, you can use whatever you want.

They came out a little more flat (and as a consequence also a lot more brittle) than I intended them to which, of course, was entirely my fault: It said in the recipe that you should use a medium-sized deep baking tray, and that the thickness of the flapjacks depends on the size of the tray. I ignored this and just spread the mixture on a normal (=large), shallow baking tray, thinking that would work. Well, it didn't. The flapjacks mixture spread about 2 inches on each side, something that a smaller, deeper baking tray would propably have prevented.


No matter how they look, they taste de-li-cious and make a nice snack for breaks between classes. Or for tea. Or breakfast. Or whenever.

(Basic recipe by Sophie Dahl)
Makes for 12-24 pieces, depending on how large a baking tray you use
2 Tbsp runny honey
2 Tbsp golden syrup
2 Tbsp black treacle (if you don't like it, you can leave out the treacle and substitute 1 Tbsp runny honey and golden syrup respectively)
150 g/2.25 cups butter (Sophie uses salted, I don't)
150 g/1.5 cups porridge oats
75 g/0.5 cup dried cranberries
50 g/0.5 cup chocolate chips
100 g/1.5 cups julienned and flaked almonds, mixed

Preheat the oven to 180° C/350° F.

Grease a medium sized, deep baking tray. Remember: The size of the tray will determine the thickness of the flapjacks.

Melt the honey, golden syrup, treacle and butter in a heavy-bottomed pan over a low heat. Stir until combined, then remove from the heat.

Mix all the dry ingredients, then add them to the molten butter and syrup.

Spread the mixture onto the baking tray and smoothe it down.

Put into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Cut the flapjacks into pieces as long as they're still hot. Allow to cool, then take them out of the tray and store in a dry, cool place.

They crumble quite a lot which annoyed me at first until I came up with the idea to sprinkle the crumbs on yogurt and have that for breakfast. Yum!

17 October 2011

Language and food

Betty had a bit of bitter butter and put it in her batter, and the bitter butter made her batter bitter. So Betty bought a bit of better butter and put it in her bitter batter, and made her bitter batter better.

16 October 2011

Spelt blinis with a mediterranean tomato filling

I spent a large part of last weekend in front of my MacBook, watching "The Delicious Miss Dahl", the wonderful cooking show that Sophie Dahl produced for the BBC. All the episodes are lovingly designed around themes like melancholy, nostalgia, escapism or romance, and are peppered with Sophie's favourite poems and anecdotes from her life.
She is just as you imagine her from her cookbooks. Plain lovely, floating around her beautifully decorated kitchen (though it isn't actually hers, but someone elses. I forget who), oozing contentedness, joy and a boundless love for food, revelling in abundance and keeping everything quite simple at the same time, smiling big Julia-Robertsy smiles, and finding more joy in shopping for cheese than in picking out a new dress. I can't help it, I just want to hug her.

In one episode, I think it was the one called "Romance", she made a fabulous blini dish, a variation of which I had already been (excuse the choice of words) salivating over while reading her second cookbook.
So I was sitting at home this afternoon, clicking my way through the bookmarked recipes in my browser, when I came across the blinis again. Sophie's version has scrambled eggs on top and smoked salmon on the side, but I didn't feel much like eggs and I didn't have any salmon, so here's what I came up with:

Spelt blinis with a mediterranean tomato filling
(Blini recipe adapted from Sophie Dahl, filling inspired by the contents of my fridge)
Serves 1

185 g/3 oz spelt flour (Sophie uses buckwheat but it works with any kind of flour)
1 tsp baking powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper
145 ml/5 fl oz milk
1 tsp mustard
75 g/2.5 oz cheese, grated (I used emmentaler because I didn't have anything else but I imagine it would be even better with crumbled feta or goat's cheese)
2 egg whites
1 pinch of salt
A knob of unsalted butter

A handful of cherry tomatoes
A few branches of fresh rosemary
3 or 4 tsp curd
1 pinch of salt
Olive oil

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl, then add the mustard and the milk to make a smooth batter. Add the grated cheese.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Carefully fold them into the batter.

Heat the oven to 200° C/390° F. Mince the rosemary. Combine oil, half of the rosemary and salt in a small bowl, add the tomatoes and toss until completely coated. Pop them into the oven until they start to crack (roughly 10 minutes).

In the meantime, heat the butter in a frying pan (a very small one would be best since it enables you to keep the blinis neat and tidy). When the butter is hot, add several spoonfuls of batter and smoothe it down. The blinis should be nice and round and about 1-1.5 cm/0.5 inches thick. Fry until the surface starts to bubble and/or the edges start to set, then flip over and fry for another few minutes. Continue until you've used up all the batter (I got two normal-sized and one small blini out of it).

Take the tomatoes out of the oven, put them back into the bowl and smash them with a fork. Add the curd and the remaining rosemary, combine and season to taste.

Put one blini on a plate, spread the tomato curd on top and cover with the second blini.

I had this for high tea with a cup of Yorkshire but it would also make a good supper with a nice glass of red wine, or even a breakfast (without the wine, of course).

15 October 2011

Pear and radicchio pasta in a blue cheese cream sauce

I am a total sucker for pasta with cream sauce. I love it so much that I could happily eat it for supper every other night. Of course, if I did, I'd propably be around 250 pounds by now which is the one and only reason I don't. But every once in a while I give in temptation and make myself a nice, steaming bowl of pasta which I top with a sauce that could fulfill my calorie requirement for several days. My favourites are Carbonara and mushroom cream sauce coated with parsley and parmesan. And since yesterday night, I have a new one.

I came across this recipe (or rather a version of it) on Gourmandises végétariennes, a vegetarian/vegan blog I've been following for over a year. It was love at first sight. Nevertheless, I felt that something about the recipe just wasn't right. Something was missing. I struggled to find out what it was until I remembered a delicious soup I had at my favourite soup restaurant a few weeks ago. A potato, pear and blue cheese soup. And there it was: Blue cheese. I was going to add blue cheese. And much more cream.

It may not be the prettiest dish ever, but we all know that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. Or a dish by its looks (and please ignore the chipped edge in the bowl).
Unfortunately, you can't see much of the pear in the picture as it's been completely smothered with sauce. But if you squint really hard, you should be able to spot some in the middle. The taste of the pear, however, is very prominent and goes, oh, so well with the radicchio and the blue cheese. This combination of sweet, bitter and savoury-salty is just, there's no other word for it, so yummy! The walnuts taste really walnutty (What a surprise! But really, there are only few things better than toasted walnuts. I love them. I could write songs about them. Love poems. Musicals.) and they add a nice crunchy crunch to the ensemble.

Nuff said. Go ahead and try it yourself.

Pear and radicchio pasta in a blue cheese cream sauce
(inspired by and adapted from Gourmandises végétariennes and my favourite soup restaurant which unfortunately doesn't have a website)

Serves 1 hungry person with some left over to eat cold the next morning (What? You don't like to eat cold pasta for breakfast?)

As much pasta as you want. (I used wholewheat which, I know, doesn't come out in the picture)
Half a small radicchio (about 100 g)
1 handful of walnuts
1 firm pear (mine wasn't that firm anymore but still ok. It shouldn't be too soft though otherwise it will just fall apart)
1 onion, red or white (whichever you prefer)
150 g/5.25 oz cream (maybe a little more)
75 g/2.5 oz Danish Blue (any other strong blue cheese like roquefort or gorgonzola will do as well)
Olive oil

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.

Wash and spin the radicchio, then chop it. Put aside.

In a searing hot pan, toast the walnuts for a few minutes (without any oil or butter), then put them aside.
Dice the onion and cut the pear into smallish pieces. Sweat the onion in olive oil until translucent, then add the pear. After a few minutes, add the cheese. When half of it has melted, deglaze with cream and turn down the heat. Cook until all the cheese has melted and the sauce has thickened. Gourmandise adds white wine which I left out as I like my sauces rich and thick. However, if you prefer a more runny sauce, add white wine until the sauce has reached the desired consistency. Season with freshly ground pepper.

Toss the pasta into a bowl, add the radicchio and the sauce and put the walnuts on top. Combine. Eat.

Bon appétit!

14 October 2011

Baked vegetables with aioli dip

This is perhaps one of the most simple and least spectacular dishes on the planet but I just wanted to show you because it looks so pretty and tastes soooooo delicious.
I used onion squash, parsnips, carrots, leek and onions but it works just as well with other vegetables like beetroots, celeriac, potatoes, sweet potatoes, aubergine, pumpkin... The list ist endless.

Don't you just love the colours? It just looks so... ...autumny! (Is that a word? 'Autumny'? I don't think so, I think it's 'autumnal'. But 'autumny' sounds just so much nicer, don't you agree?)

The aioli dip was very good, too, but a bit too garlicky for my taste. I suppose one large or two smallish cloves would suffice (I used two large ones).


I wanted to give you a better picture of the dish on the plate but at the moment I suffer from the same problem as many other food bloggers: Most of the day I'm in class or studying which means I rarely or never cook at lunchtime but do my big cooking in the evenings. Problem: By now, it gets dark around 6:00 p.m. and I never start cooking before 6:30. So most nights all the natural light has gone by the time my supper is ready. And as you know, pictures taken in artificial light either have a lot of image noise or a horrible yellowish tint, both of which you can't satisfactorily remove, not even with the aid of the almighty Photoshop (well, professionals might be able to, but I am not). To avoid this problem, Christina from the wonderful German blog Feines Gemüse has taken to photographing directly under a lamp while covering the flash with white paper to keep the picture from getting too bright. I tried that, too, but unfortunately it didn't work for me... The search for a solution goes on.

Baked vegetables with aioli dip
Serves 1 hungry person

Use whatever (autumn) vegetables you have lying around (see above). I had:
1/4 onion squash
1 leek
1 red onion
2 medium-sized carrots
2 parsnips

Olive oil
2 branches of rosemary

2 egg yolks
1 tsp mustard
200 ml/7 oz olive oil
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, crushed
1 dash of balsamic vinegar

Sunflower seeds 

Preheat the oven to 190° C/375° F. 
Quarter the onion and cut the other vegetables into chunks. Mince the rosemary. Put the vegetables and the rosemary into a medium roasting tin and drizzle them with olive oil. Pop them into the oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on how crispy you want the veggies to be.

In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks and the mustard. Then add the olive oil drop by drop, whisking steadily and quickly the entire time. It is very important that you don't add too much or all of the olive oil at once because if you do, the mixture won't thicken.
When you added all the olive oil, keep whisking for a few seconds, then add the crushed garlic and the vinegar and season to taste.

When the vegetables are done, put them on a plate and sprinkle the sunflower seeds on top (I wanted to roast them in soy sauce first but am an idiot and forgot).

Dip the vegetables into the aioli. Enjoy.

I had about 1/3 of the aioli left over. You can either keep it in the fridge for a few days and use it up when you make baked vegetables again (it works just as well with chips/fries or steamed vegetables, especially artichokes) or you can just smear it on buttered bread. It is terrific with the soda bread that I made a few days ago, forgot to post about and have almost eaten up by now. I'll make a new one next week and write a post on it. Promise.

12 October 2011

French toast with poached fruits on yogurt

This morning, the alarm clock woke me up at 8 a.m. I was extremly tired and felt a cold creeping up to me, so after having hit the snooze button for the umpteenth time and not feeling the least bit better, I decided to stay at home. There's almost nobody who takes the first week of class seriously anyway.
I stumbled into the kitchen, pulled Sophie's new cookbook off the shelf and went back to bed.
As I flipped through the pages, uuh-ing and aah-ing every so often, several thoughts hit me and I came up with an idea for a wonderful breakfast. But I've got to go further back:

It all goes back to my grandmother on my mother's side. She and I didn't have much in common. We disagreed on many things starting with how to dress and ending with how to lead a life. What we did share was an enormous passion for food, for making as well as for eating it.
When I was seven, my mum took up a fulltime job and I spent my afternoons after school at my grandparents' house waiting for her to pick me up in the evening. These afternoons were usually filled with my running around the garden, picking strawberries or uprooting carrots after which I would go back to the kitchen and have a plate of delicious homemade apple strudel, rice pudding, yeast dumplings or French toast placed in front of me. My grandmother was an amazing cook and baker and her specialty were those fabulous Southern German puddings with eggs, flour, sugar, milk and copious amounts of butter. To this day, the smell of something floury, eggy, sugary being fried in butter always reminds me of her.

Four years ago today she died, taking many of her treasured recipes to the grave. And although we disagreed more often than not, I still miss her sometimes. Her low, dirty chuckles when she found something amusing, her love of cream gateaus and the comforting sight of her short, plump figure bent over the kitchen table, kneading dough, cutting fruit or whipping cream while some delectable pudding was sizzling in the oven. This dish is my tribute to her (although she would have disapproved of the plum wine as she disapproved of all ingredients that were foreign to her).

French toast with poached fruits on yogurt
(inspired by grandma and Sophie Dahl)
Serves 1

1 slice of wholewheat toast, dry
1 egg
30 ml/1/8 cup milk
1 Tbsp cane sugar
1 generous pinch of pure vanilla (alternatively 1 glug of vanilla extract)
1 Tbsp butter

2 firm plums
1 firm pear
2 Tbsp cane sugar
3 cardamon pods
Half a cinnamon stick
1 pinch of ground cloves
Some water
Some plum wine (I strongly suggest you buy some (available at asia food shops) as it goes really well with the plums. Otherwise you can always substitute fruity red wine. And don't worry about the alcohol, it will boil away while cooking.)
100 g/ 1/2 cup yogurt
1 pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)

Whisk together the eggs, milk, 1 Tbsp cane sugar and vanilla. Place the toast in a shallow bowl and pour in the egg mixture. Leave to soak for 20 minutes.

Core the pears and cut into chunks. Stone the plums and cut into quarters. Fill a small pot with about 1 cm/1/2 inch of water, add the fruit, the cardamon pods and the cinnamon stick and bring to the boil. When boiling (really bubbly boiling) slowly add the plum wine until the fluid is still simmering but stopped bubbling. Turn down the heat and let it cook for 5-10 minutes or until the fruit is soft. Add the sugar and the cloves, cook for another few minutes, then take off the heat and remove the cardamon pods and the cinnamon stick.

When the toast has soaked up all the fluid, take a small pan and melt the butter. Fry the toast for a couple of minutes on each side until the outside has browned.

Put the toast on a plate, top it with the yogurt and the poached fruits and sprinkle with cinnamon. Some flaked or julienned almonds would certainly be delicious, too.

09 October 2011

German gingerbread, part one

Yes, gingerbread. Yes, I know Christmas is still almost 3 months away. And yes, there's a reason why the gingerbread making is going on now. Read on and you'll see.

Can you think of a better way to spend a cold, dark and rainy Saturday afternoon than standing in the kitchen and fighting with an unmanageable mass of sticky dough while the air around you smells like Christmas? No? Neither can I. So that's what I did on Saturday: I made Gingerbread dough.
This is a recipe I was given to by a friend who, in her turn, got it from the German recipe database Chefkoch. My friend swears by it and since I now have a pantry aka a place where I can let the dough rest for 2 (yes, two) months, I finally caved in and decided to try it out. Apparently, it is a very old recipe, handed down for generations and as, in my humble opinion, old biscuit recipes almost always beat fancy new ones by a mile, I'm expecting this to be a revelation. At least. The pressure's on.

So here goes the recipe (no picture because the dough is currently wrapped in a very unsightly plastic bag and packed away in the pantry. It's not very fotogenic, anyway. Just imagine a shiny brown ball.)


250 g/9 oz runny honey
250 g/1.25 cups cane sugar
100 g/(little less than) 1/2 cup butter
1 sachet of gingerbread spices (you can substitute 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cardamon, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1/2 tsp ginger, a generous pinch of coriander and an equally generous pinch of allspice)
zest of 1 lemon
500 g/4 cups flour
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 eggs
12 g (about 1 heaped teaspoon) salt of tartar (not to be confused with cream of tartar! Salt of tartar is also known as potash or potassium carbonate. You should be able to get it at the chemist's or a well-assorted supermarket)
1.25-1.5 Tbsp cherry brandy

- Combine sugar and honey in a pot and heat it up on the stove. Add the butter, spices and lemon zest while stirring. Take it off the stove and let it cool for a couple of minutes.
- In a large bowl, mix the flour and the cocoa powder. Slowly add the honey-sugar-butter-mix and combine it all thoroughly.
- Whisk the eggs, then add them to the dough.
- Add the salt of tartar to the cherry brandy and stir until completely dissolved, then add to the dough.
- Knead the dough until it's shiny and not sticky anymore. You may need to add a little more flour.
- Roll the dough into a ball, put it in a plastic bag or an airtight container and let it rest in a dry, cool place for at least 1 night, ideally 2 months.
- One more piece of advice: Don't go around telling people that you made gingerbread dough that needs to sit around for two months because everybody will just tell you you're crazy. The only variation in the reactions I received was that people either said "Are you sure you didn't misread the recipe?" or "But the dough will just go bad. You'll die of salmonella!" but they were pretty unanimous in the declaration of my insanity. And while it is fun to argue with the first two or three people, it stops being anything but annoying with the sixth or seventh person who tells you that you'll have dropped dead by New Year's Eve.
And in case you yourself are worried, let me just tell you: My friend's been making this recipe for years now and she's still in excellent health.

I'll leave you in complete suspense about the rest of the procedure (because, surely, nobody has the slightest idea about how to proceed) and pick the subject up again somewhere around the beginning of December.

08 October 2011

It's here, it's here, it's HERE!

My darling, my baby, my love!
The wonderful and inspiring Sophie Dahl, my personal food deity, has written a new cookbook and as of three hours ago, I am in possession of a copy.

Goodbye world, I will now retreat to my room and and disappear into food paradise!

Indian sweet potato latkes with quinoa and mint yogurt

Yesterday was one of those days that seem to go by in a flash and at the end of it you've done absolutely nothing and are left wondering where the time went. On top of it I was in a terribly whiny mood for absolutely no reason and even the fabulous Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies could only cheer me up for a couple of minutes.
The only thing I did manage yesterday was burning the quinoa while making supper which made me feel even more rotten than I already did. In the end I managed to save some of it, though, and the latkes were so delicious that they made up for this horrible day after all, just like they were supposed to.

(Sorry for the terrible picture, my camera was a little stubborn yesterday and I was too hungry and tired to argue with it.)

The recipe is adapted from Sophie Dahl's "Voluptuous Delights". According to her, it is a breakfast dish which serves "2 hungry people with some left over for tea". I, however, ate all of the latkes at once and all by myself.


2 egg whites
340 g/1,5 cups sweet potatoes
2 medium-sized red onions (Sophie's recipe uses spring onions, but I didn't have any)
1,5 tsp curry powder
1 pinch of ground cumin
1 pinch of cinnamon
Salt and pepper
Groundnut oil (didn't have that, either, so I used olive oil)

about 100 g quinoa
some low-fat yogurt
3 branches of mint

-Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 2,5-cm/1-inch cubes. Fill a pot with a few cm/inches of water, insert a steaming basket, fill it with the potatoes and steam for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. (If you don't have a steaming basket, just pop the potatoes into the oven. 15 minutes at 180° C/350° F should do it.)
-In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites with a fork until slightly foamy.
-When the potatoes are done, put them in a large bowl and mash them coarsely, using a fork. Dice the onions and add them to the mash, then add the spices and, last but not least, the egg whites. Combine thoroughly.
-Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the box (normally 1 part quinoa to 2 or 3 parts water), adding a little salt and some minced mint leaves.
-In a frying pan, heat the oil and place dollops of the potato mix into it. Be careful not to make the latkes too big because otherwise they will break when you try to flip them over. They take a couple of minutes on each side.
-Coarsely chop the remaining mint leaves and mix them with the yogurt and a little salt. Put everything on a plate. Eat.

06 October 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

A couple of days ago autumn finally arrived. And I don't mean autumn as in pumpkins at the farmer's market and halloween costumes in the stores but autumn as in coolish, windy weather with grey clouds chasing each other across the sky, trees turning yellow and shedding their leaves and people pulling out their woollen coats, scarves and hats.
I love autumn almost as much as winter. I love the chilly air in the mornings with the mist over the meadows, the damp smell of the air and the yellow and brown of the leaves gleaming in the afternoon sunlight, I love going for a long walk wrapped in a warm coat and a big scarf, with my pretty autumn boots at my feet and returning with a cold face, rosy cheeks and windswept hair. I love sitting at home on a rainy day with lit candles, a cuppa and some biscuits, listening to Laura Marling on the stereo and dawdling away the time, or watching a film while lying on the bed, snuggled up with a warm blanket and a cup of hot cocoa.
Another good thing about autumn is the start of the winter term in mid-October. Don't get me wrong, I love summer hols. But after 2 months of no courses and only an occasional term paper or test, I tend to get extremely bored and my brain yearns for something to do. If you say "swot" now, I'll hit you.

But the best thing about autumn is that it's the season of harvest. Which means food. Loads of food. And I love, LOVE autumn food.
Pumpkins, grains, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beetroots, chestnuts, spices, apples, pears. Autumn, for me, means colourful, earthy food that warms your soul and your eyes as well as your stomach. Soups, gratins, purees and pies. I can't wait.
This autumn, pumpkin will call the tune. I plan to let it star in syrups, pies, cupcakes, pancakes, brownies and much more. I already made some amazing healthy and tasty pumpkin dishes in September but I promise to make them again and post the recipes.

The first recipe on this blog is incidentally also the first thing I baked in my new kitchen in my new flat. So I thought to myself, I could as well start my blog and life in my new flat with my new flatmate (and good friend, here's to you!) off with a bang, or better: a calorie bomb for the hips and an explosion for the taste buds: Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies. Your life will never be the same. Cross my heart and hope to die.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies 
(find the picture in my header; recipe adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride)


8 Tbsp butter
8 oz / 225 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup / 200 g+ 2 Tbsp sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup / 125 g + 2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup / 30 g cocoa powder (the darker and the less de-oiled the better)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz/200 g reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temp
1/2 cup/250 g canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground all spice
1/4 tsp ground ginger

- If canned pumpkin isn't available at your local supermarket, you'll have to make the pumpkin puree yourself: Cut 250 g of pumpkin or winter squash (I prefer onion squash) in thin slices, put them on a baking tray covered with baking parchment and bake at 200° C for about half an hour.
- Grease a square 8-inch/20-cm baking tin or something similar. I didn't have one and used a round tarte tin.
- In a bain-marie, melt butter and chocolate together and whisk until completely smooth. Be careful not to let any water from the bain-marie get into the chocolate-butter-mixture because for some reason, the water makes it turn into a tough, unusable lump.
- Whisk in the sugar and then add 3 of the eggs, one at a time, whisking between each addition.
- Whisk in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Use a wooden spoon for that, the batter will get too tough for a handheld mixer or an egg whisk.
- The batter will by now have reached the consistency of something resembling greasy chocolatey bubble gum but that's what it's supposed to look like, don't worry. Transfer it to the greased tin and spread it evenly.
- In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese and 2 Tbsp sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- When the pumpkin is ready, transfer it to a blender and puree it. Add the puree to the cream cheese and beat until thoroughly combined. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then add 2 Tbsp flour and the ground spices. I used freshly ground nutmeg but was a bit over-enthusiastic and ended up using nearly twice the required amount. It didn't hurt. And I was out of ginger, so I used ground cardamon instead. You can never go wrong with cardamon.
- Create wells in the top of the brownie batter. Spoon the pumpkin cheesecake mixture into the wells. Use the tip of a knife to swirl the chocolate and pumpkin together. I didn't manage that very well, but I think I like the brownies better with the pumpkin cheesecake on top of the chocolate dough instead of swirled into it, anyway.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 40-50 minutes. Cool in pan for 30 minutes then cut into squares and serve.

Happy eating!

05 October 2011

a new dawn, a new day, a new kitchen

Well, ok, how do you start a blog without sounding absolutely ridiculous? Hello word wide web, here I am? Read my blog because my thoughts are groundbreaking and will propably change your life?
Er, no.
I'll just start somewhere in the middle of what currently is on my mind. The last few weeks of my life have been pretty busy. I handed in my bachelor thesis, graduated from university, took the IELTS and finally moved out of my pretty, large windowed and damp-almost-moldy room. My new flat which I share with a friend is quite small, very cosy and has got the tiniest and cutest kitchen you can possibly imagine. Yay me. Feels good.
And as of last monday I officially am a grad student. Feels good, too. Especially since the road there has been a bit bumpy.
On top of all that I finally gave in to my self-centered streak and started this blog which will mainly revolve around the two major things in my life: food and languages (hence the title).
A new flat, a new programme of study and a new outlet for my thoughts and food obsessions. And since there's magic in every new beginning this triple new beginning will propably rank somewhere close to Hogwarts. Let's hope so.

Off we go.